Waiheke Wonderland: Part 1, Food Cornucopia

by Forager on February 27, 2009

This post is about my magnificent kiwi foodie getaway. As mentioned briefly in my last post, the co-pilot and travelled to New Zealand to visit his aunt Rosie and her partner Terry who live on Waiheke Island – an idyllic island paradise that lies a mere 30mins from Auckland by ferry. I hadn’t visited them on Waiheke before, I’ve only heard of the amazing stretch of the island that they live on, with lush green farmland that stretches to the sea, with more oysters and mussels than you can possibly eat growing wild on the shoreline. It was high time I went to Waiheke Island to assess this for myself.

I am so glad I did as my Waiheke experience was one of the best and most intense food experiences I’ve ever had. I spent an exhausting action- and importantly food-packed 4 days on the island. I had an inkling of the things to come on my first day on the island, when Rosie showed me around their thriving vegetable garden, then plucked some of them to use in a salad dressed with a lemon and pumpkin seed oil dressing from her own label, Attitude Foods. The pumpkin seed oil was imported from Austria and was very aromatic and nutty – somewhere between sesame and peanut oil. This was followed by Rosie’s beef fillet with mushroom duxelles. The mushrooms were sauteed with plenty of onions and thyme, heaped onto the fillet and secured using bacon strips. This was served with succulent steamed baby zucchini, sauteed curly kale (which I’d never tried before) and roasted parsnip. Delicious! Clearly, I was in the presence of some serious foodies!

Of course, we wasted no time afterwards and eagerly headed down to the shore to check out the famed oysters and mussels. The oysters were everywhere, stuck steadfast to every flat surface. We tried to pry open their shells with the rocks we found around us, but to no avail. So we went off in search of mussels instead. The co-pilot even stripped down to his boxers in his enthusiastic search. We went home empty handed and disappointed.

Little did we know that we’d actually visited at high tide. A-ha! We returned the next day at low tide, armed with a bucket, a chisel and hammer and found more oysters than I could imagine, bared in all their glory before us. I went giddy with excitement and ran around chiselling away at the biggest oysters I could find – and there were plenty of enormous oysters! We tried both the larger flat pacific oysters and the smaller gnarled oysters that resembled Sydney Rock oysters. The smaller variety had a milder and less briny flavour and were tastier than their larger pacific oyster counterparts – but were of course, harder to get too.

When we had enough oysters we collected mussels from rocks near the shoreline. There was clearly evidence of some monster mussels, but we only found smaller ones – both small black ones like Boston Bay mussels and the slightly larger NZ green lipped mussels – but nothing monstrous. We had the oysters au naturel with Tetsuya’s oyster dressing and grilled in the shell with cheese and tamari. The mussels we had stewed in Terry’s tomato-based recipe with onions, garlic and sumac. Delicious and so incredibly satisfying to have a meal harvested straight from nature. I can’t enthuse about this enough!

In the next post about Waiheke Island we go sailing, fishing, dining out and more…

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lorraine@NotQuiteNigella March 3, 2009 at 7:40 pm

Hello from NZ! Ahh I wish I had known about this island before we planned our itinerary. Aren’t the oysters here divine?

2 Forager March 4, 2009 at 12:46 pm

Hey Lorraine – Absolutely! Nothing beats freshly harvested and shucked. The mussels were also sooo fresh that I had to get a pair of pliers and ALL my weeny strength to pull the beards out! And still they would’nt give up their beards! That’s when you know how fresh they are!

3 Christie @ Fig & Cherry March 5, 2009 at 4:07 pm

Oooh, we’ve been thinking of a trip to NZ! We’ll definitely make this part of our plans. Thanks for the link! :)

4 Forager March 6, 2009 at 11:05 am

Hey Christie – Glad to be of help! I love NZ every time I’m there but I often forget about it when planning overseas trips. It’s stunningly beautiful! (although the food in the South Island was a bit disppointing on my last trip – sort of what i expect Australian food in the 70’s might have been like.. meat and 3 veg type stuff.)

5 emi November 29, 2009 at 7:44 pm

Great article! Am on Waiheke on culinary externship and haven't tried this activity yet. What beach did you go to do this? 

6 Forager November 29, 2009 at 9:48 pm

Hi Emi – The specific beach featured in this post was a privately owned beach, but the ones nearby are just as good although may have fewer mussels and oysters as they're public. You can find this near the Whakanewa Bay. Good luck with the oyster and mussel foraging!

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